The Right Fit
Use the fitting chart below for basic measurements to help you determine which would be your personal best as a guideline. Remember also that ‘rises’ are sometimes shorter in stretch jeans, pants, etc., than woven trousers.
Petite is considered 4'11" - 5'3"
The inseam/pant length is usually 28 1/2" which is 1 1/2" shorter than average and the rise is 1" shorter than average. One other thing to mention: You may be petite, but have a long rise and be shortwaisted (the distance from your shoulder to waist is shorter than distance from waist to crotch). You could purchase average rise pants for the longer rise and alter the inseam.
Average is considered 5'4" - 5'7"
Inseam is usually 30" - 32". You may still need to hem these.
Tall is 5'8" - 6' and above
The inseam is usually 32" - 36" which is approximately 2 1/2" - 3 1/2" longer than average. Rises are approximately 1" longer than average. Do your pants feel tight in the rise? You may need to purchase the tall length size.
Height does not always have a relationship to whether or not you wear petite or tall. Some women have a short torso and long legs and some women have a long torso, short legs. Torso length is that measurement from the shoulder to the crotch area. Most of us are not perfectly proportioned from the shoulder to the waist and the waist to the crotch. These measurements would be fairly close if you are average. If your upper torso from shoulder to waist is longer than your waist to crotch, you are considered longwaisted. If shorter, you are shortwaisted and you are longer from the waist to the crotch. All of this means that if you are shortwaisted or longer on the bottom, you may be petite, but need an average rise in a pant.
When purchasing pants, buy the pant that fits the largest area on your body. For instance, if your waist is much smaller than your hips, buy your pants to fit your hips and have the waist altered, and vice versa.
Major Fit Note: There is a difference between 18 and 18W. The 18W is approximately 2" bigger in waist and hip and thigh. A size 18 pant is fit usually on a size 8/10 missy fit model and is graded up to a size 18. Not usually a good fit for us curvier ladies. An 18W (for a plus-size woman) is usually fit on a size 18 plus fit model and is generous and created with more ease in stress points for our beautiful bodies. That's why you may not be able to wear a straight 16,18 etc. And if you are not sure, try on a couple of sizes. If you wear a straight missy sized 18, you may find a 16W is a better fit for you. The 18W may be too big in the leg and hip. Train your eye to see the fit not the size when you buy and remember, some companies oversized cutting and very large, and you will need to try on different sizes. Most of us choose to purchase from a favorite line and know that brand. Sometimes I try another line and have to wear much smaller or larger. So my point is: be aware, look at fit, not size.